Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Ryan: Air base lodging project start is good sign
A public-private loan package will enable Starr Manufacturing to invest in new technology.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VIENNA U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said the start of construction of Phase I of the Joint Services Lodging Project at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station is one sign that positive things are happening in the Mahoning Valley.
Ground was broken Monday for the $7.5 million project, the first part of a four-phase, $34.5 million lodging project at the air station. The station houses the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing and contingents of Marine Corps and Naval reservists.
Ryan, of Niles, D-17th, who officials said was instrumental in getting Phase I construction money, said while money is tight at the federal level, he will continue to fight for funding for the air reserve station.
"Once you get a project started, it's easier to get money to finish it," he said.
The general contractor on the three-story building is a joint venture between the Jack Gibson Construction Co. of Warren and Better Built Construction Services of Trenton, Ohio. The architectural firm of Baker, Bednar & Associates of Howland designed the facility.
Site work is expected to get under way next week. The anticipated completion date is April 18, 2008.
"Adequate housing for reserves who train here positively impacts our mission," said Col. Timothy Thomson, base and 910th commander.
Having additional lodging on base will be less expensive than housing personnel in area motels, more convenient for training, save time and money for reservists, and also improve force security, he said.
"My one regret is that I won't get to see finished one of the best things to begin in my three years here," said Thomson, who is retiring in July.
Ryan said the good news of base lodging was second only to the day he learned the station had survived the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure evaluation process.
The air station currently has 76 rooms for reservists in two wood-frame barracks built in 1952, said Larry LeMar, station civil engineer. LeMar said Phase 1 will add 41 rooms, including quarters for those with disabilities and two VIP suites. It also will contain lodge offices and storage. Phases 2 and 3, with an estimated combined cost of $18 million, will add 210 rooms. The $9 million Phase 4 would replace the current wood barracks, he said.
Upon completion of the four-phase project, the station will be able to lodge about 338 Reservists, officials said.
At another stop in Vienna on Monday, Ryan said Starr Manufacturing is further evidence the Valley is turning the corner economically.
The company, located at 4175 Warren-Sharon Road (old state Route 82), is the beneficiary of a private-government partnership that put together a $2.2 million financial package. The money will enable Starr to invest in new technology and employee training, said Thomas Smith, former owner and now vice president of sales.
Starr fabricates, machines and assembles products made from stainless steel, mild (low-carbon) steel and aluminum for some 25 industries, and is seeking to enlarge its international customer base, Smith said.
On March 1, the company was taken over by Andreas Foerster and his group, said Smith, who started the business 42 years ago. Foerster is president of Starr.
The financial package includes a loan from National City Bank, 80 percent of which is guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Business Program, and a loan from First Place Bank, which financed the purchase of some equipment.
The rural development program promotes economic development by supporting loans to businesses through banks and community-managed lending pools.
Private money came from John Taylor, owner of Paige & Byrnes in Warren, and Foerster, Smith said. First Place and the Warren Redevelopment and Planning agency also rolled over loans into the new company.
Also, Trumbull County made a $450,000 low-interest loan to staff through its Community Development Block Grant program.
With the injection of the new money, Smith said Starr expects to add 30 employees to its current work force of 68, and grow its sales from the $8 million to $9 million expected this year to $24 million within three years.